Alexander Ovechkin has been shredding apart the NHL this season. He leads the league with 21 goals in just 26 games. His line mates Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson have been doing their part to help Ovechkin succeed by tallying 25 and 19 points respectively. Mikhail Grabovski has been a solid addition to the team, recording 22 points while playing third-line minutes with Joel Ward and Jason Chimera. Aside from those six, no forward has found success in the early goings of the 2013-14 campaign in Washington.
Troy Brouwer? Brooks Laich? Where have you been?
These two veterans play on the second line rotating along with either Martin Erat (no goals this season) or Eric Fehr (three goals this year, but only one coming while playing on the second line). Brouwer has been a bright spot when it comes to hits, but leading the team in hits doesn’t always convert to goals. Brouwer has tallied just nine points this season to go along with a minus-4 rating. It’s a great compliment to Laich’s whopping six points on the year (sarcasm).
The second line (which includes all four of these players) has generated just 31 points on the season, good for one of the worst second lines in all of hockey. Now for a team looking to make it out of the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the late 90’s, this isn’t exactly a recipe for success. How can a team have any success if they aren’t getting contributions from guys that are logging second-line minutes?
We all know Erat’s story. He doesn’t like where he’s at. He wants to be traded. Though, he never likes where he’s at (wanted to leave Nashville as well). Who wants a guy like that on their team?
Laich has missed three games this year due to injury and is just a shell of what he was when the Capitals were leading the league in goals scored in 2010.
Brouwer can hit with the best of them, but he fans on more shots in the slot on the power play than anyone I’ve seen in recent years.
As of now, Erat’s comments have demoted him to the fourth line, giving Fehr the opportunity to log more ice time. He’s tallied goals in two of the last four games which is just a glimmer of hope.
For a guy like Ovechkin, who is often mentioned when it comes to best players in the NHL, it’s unfair for him to not get any help from his supporting cast. Everyone criticizes him for not winning a Stanley Cup yet, but the Capitals simply don’t have a talented roster aside from their first and third lines to even give Ovechkin a fighting chance.
It’s not difficult for a team to shut down a single player in the postseason. It’s even easier for a team to shut down one guy when the rest of the roster can’t figure out how to put the biscuit in the basket. The Rangers did it to Ovechkin last year, sending the Capitals to another early trip home to golf courses in the DC area.
If the Capitals somehow sneak into the playoffs this season (which is quite possible due to their untalented division), we are likely going to see a similar story unless guys not named Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson, and Nicklas Backstrom decide to bring their A-plus games to the rink every night.
Matt Schreiber is the Florida Panthers Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. He grew up just outside of Washington, DC before moving to Boca Raton, FL, where he currently resides. He also covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.